Originally created 05/07/02

Burma's new dawn



Thousands of well-wishers chanted "Long live Aung San Suu Kyi" as the Nobel laureate drove out of her lakeside villa after nearly two years of house arrest. Burma's pro-democracy leader and head of the National League for Democracy party, is the daughter of Burmese independence hero, Aung San.

When Suu Kyi reached her party headquarters in Rangoon, she said, "It's a new dawn for the country ... we only hope the dawn will move very quickly."

Suu Kyi's own movements within Burma, also known as Myanmar, have been restricted since 1989, the first time she was placed under house arrest by the governing military junta.

Her party won an overwhelming victory in elections allowed by the military in 1990, but the junta ignored the results. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her tenacious, nonviolent efforts to bring democracy to her country.

Pressure from the global community is credited for Suu Kyi's release. International sanctions over human rights abuses have caused soaring unemployment and sky-rocketing inflation in the beleaguered nation. Most multinational corporations - including Texaco, Arco, Wal-Mart and PepsiCo have cut ties with the military-ruled nation.

Some insiders, however, fear Suu Kyi's new dawn may move quickly to a sunset. They see her release as a result of infighting among the military junta.

Myanmar's head of state, Gen. Than Schwe, is set to retire next year and Burma watchers say the rest of the junta is jockeying for power. Some see the release simply as a way for soft-liners to gain a power base outside of the Myanmar army. Hopefully, the soft-liners will succeed; a non-military power base could lead to the democracy Suu Kyi seeks.